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You’ve got an extremely long drive ahead. You’ve got young children to look after and a partner that insists on playing truly horrendous music in the car. Making it even worse though, is your dog who’s in the back barking. Not just a quiet growl, but a penetratingly loud bark. The only positive is that he’s drowning out the sound of your partner's music. There’s just no telling him to quit the barking, he seems adamant on making as much noise as possible whenever he gets into a car. It’s the same when you take him to the vets, or to visit friends and family.
Training him to stop barking in the car will give you some well-deserved peace and quiet. It will also mean you don’t have to walk him in the rain and the cold just because of the havoc he’ll cause if you drive him.
Training your dog not to bark in the car is relatively straightforward. You’ll first need to identify why he barks, then you can set about remedying it. You’ll have to take a number of measures to keep him calm and subdued in the car. You’ll also need to use obedience commands to teach him to be quiet. If he’s a puppy, his brain should be malleable and you can expect results in as little as a week. If he’s older and had this noisy habit for many years then you may need up to three weeks to fully kick the habit.
Training him to be quiet will mean you can drive safely. You won’t be distracted by your barking dog, you’ll actually be able to concentrate on the road.
Before you can get to work, you’ll need to gather a few things. Treats or his favorite food will be essential. You’ll also need some toys and possibly some food puzzles. These will help keep him distracted when he’s in the car.
Find 10 minutes a day you can set aside for training, when you won’t be distracted by a noisy household. You’ll also need to have access to a car to practice in over the next few weeks.
Once you’ve got the above, you can get to work!
The Deterrence Method
When you’re in the car, have a passenger or someone in the back squirt water near his face when he barks. This quick, sharp spray will quickly signal to him that barking won’t be tolerated.
You can also get collars that are automatically triggered when he barks. The citronella collar, for example, will emit an unpleasant spray near his face. Simply fit the collar before you get in a car. This will further deter him.
Often, consistent disapproval from an owner can help stamp out an unfavorable habit. Whenever he barks, in a clear and firm voice say ‘NO’ in his direction. Don’t terrify him, but make sure he knows you mean business.
Cover his crate
If you put him in a crate in the car and he starts barking, try putting a towel or blanket over it. If he can’t see what’s going on, he won’t get so worked up and he won’t bark. When he stops barking you can then remove it and give him another chance to stay quiet.
While deterring him with the measures above, also reward him with treats and attention when he doesn’t bark. This combination of positive and negative reinforcement will swiftly get the message across.
The Distraction Method
Before you go on a drive, make sure he’s had plenty of exercise. If he’s restless then he may bark simply to release some pent up energy. Give him a long walk, or throw a ball for 15 minutes for him. A tired dog is a quiet dog.
Meet all his needs
Make sure before a long drive in particular that he’s done everything he needs to, the toilet for example. If he’s been to the toilet and he’s got access to water and a towel or blanket to lie on, then he won’t bark to signal to you that he needs something.
When you get in the car, give him a food puzzle. You can buy puzzles that will keep him distracted and preoccupied for hours. If it’s got his favorite food inside then all his attention will be focused on that.
Have someone else play gently with him in the car. He may simply want attention. Don’t get him so worked up he’s jumping around, but play a little tug of war and stroke him. This will stem any and all attention-seeking barking.
Once you’ve played around for a while, have some down time. Talk in a quiet and soft voice. Dogs mirror their owners behavior, so if someone in the back can stroke him gently this should subdue him. It will also prevent any barking that’s a result of him being scared to be in the car.
The ‘Quiet’ Method
Look for situations that naturally cause him to bark. These could be when you’re putting together his meals, or securing him to his leash for a walk. You’re going to use these moments to teach him to be quiet, a command that will come in extremely useful in the car.
Put him in the bark-inducing situation and then wait patiently. As soon as he stops barking, issue a ‘quiet’ command, giving it in an upbeat but clear voice. You can use any word or phrase you like.
As soon as you’ve given the command, give him a tasty treat and some praise. The better the treat the more likely he’ll be to follow your instruction again. Now practice this for 10 minutes every day.
Use in the car
Now put him in the car and head off down the road. As soon as he barks, issue your ‘quiet’ command. Then when he does go quiet, throw him a treat. If he won’t follow your command in the car, go back to practicing in the house for a few more days.
Lose the treats
When he finally gets the hang of it, you can stop giving him tasty rewards. Use the command every time and he’ll soon realize what is and isn’t expected of him in the car. The barking will eventually subside.
Written by James Barra
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 11/16/2017, edited: 01/08/2021